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5 Reasons Why Travelers Are Still Flocking To Colombia Despite New U.S. Travel Advisory

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Colombia is one of the leading tourist destinations in the Global South, attracting millions of short-term visitors, as well as digital nomads and other categories of expats every year, especially from the United States.

Sadly, the country may be backsliding in terms of urban safety and losing some of the progress it's made since peace agreements were reached between the government and gang leaders, at least according to a new concerning travel advisory issued by U.S. authorities.

An Urban Scene With A Metro Traveling On A Bridge Spanning The Historic Center Of Medellin, In The Antioquia Department Of Colombia, South America

Despite the dispiriting news, it continues to soar in popularity among tourists, experiencing a strong post-crisis rebound. In this article, we will give you 5 reasons why they keep flocking to Colombia in spite of the present risks.

But first, we must understand why the U.S. is concerned about the safety of its citizens when visiting the Latin American nation and how serious they believe threats are:

What Is Happening In Colombia Right Now?

According to the new update published by the State Department on their Colombia Travel Advice page, American Embassy officials in Bogota have seen ‘an increase' in incidents involving U.S. passport holders visiting or residing in the country.

Panorama Of A Slum In Medellin, Colombia, South America

As the Embassy states, these mostly involve sedatives, used to drug and mug victims. These crimes have been reported as early as November 2022 and gained traction in the media following the tragic death of Mr. Paul Nguyen, a U.S. citizen unintentionally killed due to drugging.

The information available suggests that Mr. Nguyen suffered an overdose of scopolamine, commonly known as Devil's Breath, weaponized by a female he met on Tinder who has since been charged in his death.

While the suspect probably did not intend for Mr. Nguyen to be killed upon drugging him, an exceedingly high and unsafe dosage was administered, leading to his death, likely from respiratory failure, a leading cause of fatalities among scopolamine users.

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People Partying In A Rave In An Unspecified Location, Party, Celebration

The incident, which took place in Medellin, is only one of several serious incidents related to scopolamine. In 2022 alone, at least 25 foreigners lost their lives in Colombia due to violence or similar circumstances.

The U.S. Embassy has informed Americans that foreigners are ‘routinely targeted' through online dating applications, such as Tinder, or in bars and clubs by men and women with malicious intent.

They are mostly after money, and a tourist's worst-case scenario, other than of course dying from an unintentional overdose, is having not only their wallet stolen but their bank account wiped clean, and they probably will not remember a thing due to the drug's strong effects.

View Of A Narrow Street In A Slum In Medellin, Colombia, South America

Of course, drugging cases that result in death are the most worrying, and the Embassy has reported it ‘regularly' receives calls for help from American victims vacationing in Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota, three of Colombia's major tourist hotspots.

The Canadian Government is also aware of the threat and has added a note on scopolamine drugging, advising Canadians not to leave drinks unattended when frequenting bars and exercising caution when using dating apps.

Even Colombian gang leaders have announced talks to tackle urban violence, further giving an indication into how serious the situation on the ground may be.

Federal Police In A Favela In Brazil, Latin America

Seeing that safety risks for tourists, in particular solo travelers, are rising, why then is Colombia still so massively popular?

It Is Incredibly Affordable

First of all, Colombia is one of the best budget destinations out there, with tourist dollars stretching way further here than they would in other Latin American vacation spots, even the increasingly expensive Mexico.

Even if they're traveling on a budget, Americans can find great hotel deals for a small fraction of the price they would get back at home, largely due to the devalued local currency and strong competition in the hospitality industry within Colombia itself.

Colonial Era Street Lined With Historical Houses In The Old Center Of Cartagena, North Colombia, A City Straddling The Caribbean Coast, South America

All of the ten top-rated hotels and accommodations in Medellin listed on have nightly rates under US$200, some as cheap as only US$57, not to mention the affordability of Colombia in general, as the cost of living may be up to 60% less burdensome than in the States.

Beautiful Beaches And Nature

Then, there is Colombia's stunning coastline and nature, and the great weather to match.

Cities like Cartagena and Barranquilla enjoy hotter temperatures year-round and are located a short boat ride away from truly pristine island getaways surrounded by the bright-blue Caribbean Sea, such as the landmark Isla Baru; they make an ideal sunny getaway for North Americans.

As for Colombian nature in general, it is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Aerial View Of Guatape Rock, Colombia

Expect to find Mars-like landscapes, snow-capped Andean peaks, forests traversed by exploration trails that hide majestic waterfalls, and rolling green hills dotted with small villages and vineyards.

Perhaps Colombia's most famous postcard, the rock of Guatape rises 2,137 meters above a protected natural site. It can be climbed, offering a breathtaking panorama of the lake region below and the colonial-era towns nestled in the dense jungle.

A World-Class Cultural Destination

Colombia is every bit as valuable as a cultural destination as it is as a tropical hub.

It's fascinated visitors and explorers since the early 16th century when Europeans first made landfall and rumors of a Golden City, or ‘Eldorado', started spreading. These have yet to be confirmed, but there's no denying Colombia's pre-Columbian History is a captivating one.

man walking in colombia

Home to the native Andeans, the territory already had a rich culture prior to the arrival of the colonizers, and Colombians are extremely proud of both their indigenous and Hispanic roots.

For amazing European-inspired architecture, wide boulevards lined by leafy trees, and a cobbled historic center, head to the enchanting capital of Bogota, where you will find some of the country's best-equipped museums, including the Gold Museum and Botero Museum.

If it's a vibrant urban scene and a jovial vibe you're after, you definitely should add the art-filled, youthful Medellin to your bucket list.

Colonial Era Street Lined With Historical Houses In The Old Center Of Cartagena, North Colombia, A City Straddling The Caribbean Coast, South America

Located in the historic department of Antioquia, it is best known as the homeland of Pablo Escobar, Colombia's most controversial figure.

Finally, when in search of colonial-era landmarks, traditional colorful facades, and Spanish forts dating back to the 16th century, Cartagena is a sound pick, with its walled Old Town and UNESCO World Heritage monuments.

Friendly Locals

Although Colombia's safety levels have been questioned in recent months in light of the ongoing crime surge, one thing we can collectively agree on is the country is made up of more genuinely good individuals than bad.

woman looking at colombian building

Whether it's quick interactions with your hotel staff or tour guides or even friends you make as you travel around the Latin American gem, you will soon learn that Colombians are probably one of the most friendly and welcoming people in the world.

As part of our Off Path Life endeavor, our senior editor has spent several consecutive months in Colombia in direct contact with the community and partnering with local authorities and NGOs working on the ground to distribute food and other necessary supplies to impoverished families.

In order to reach those in need, our team and partners have walked some of the most dangerous streets and ventured deep into some of Medellin's ill-famed no-go zones.

The one thing Colombians share, regardless of their social status, is their warm heart.

heart shaped hands

They will spare no effort in ensuring you feel well-received during your visit, and luckily for tourists who have been concerned over the red flags raised by the American Embassy, criminals and scammers are very much a minority, known to disrupt peace, but a minority nonetheless.

Booming Digital Nomad Scene

Lastly, Colombia has invested heavily in re-imagining itself as a digital nomad destination.

Now that the world's borders have reopened and remote work has exploded in popularity, it is hoping to capitalize on the growing trend.

man on the beach

Other than implementing a more relaxed visa policy, enabling many more countries to enter visa-free than the likes of Chile and Brazil, the latter of which has just re-imposed visa restrictions on Americans, it has launched an easy-to-apply, non-discriminatory digital nomad visa (DNV).

As long as they fulfill the financial requirements and their earnings originate from foreign sources not based in Colombia, digital nomads are eligible to apply for the Colombian DNV, allowing them to remain in the national territory for up to two years.

Additionally, those intending to reside in Colombia for a short period can simply benefit from the visa-free regime.

Historical Colonial Town Of Barichara In Colombia, South America

Americans and Canadians can stay for an initial three months, renewable for an additional three for a total of six consecutive months in the country.

Final Thoughts

Colombia may not be the safest destination to travel to in South America based on the data presented, but many travelers believe its natural beauty, friendliness to foreigners, and amazing culture easily offset certain risks.

Of course, in order to travel to Colombia, they must exercise caution and bear in mind urban security levels are significantly lower than in their home countries or states, but a majority of tourists fulfill their visits stress-free by observing general safety advice and steering clear of trouble.

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Samantha Bushika

Saturday 29th of July 2023

Awesome post. I love ur writing style. I actually read the whole post and I don't do that. It's awesome what they are doing out there and I hope they know they are appreciated. It will come right back to them. I'm going to visit Medellin soon and everything I've read is so confusing and oppositional. Fr. Either way this post clarified a lot. Thanks so much! Metta.

Agustin Pelaez

Thursday 29th of June 2023

Not only happens to tourists. I'm born and raised in Medellin, had lived here for 38 years without ever being robbed, but recently experienced a new type of robbery called "express kidnapping". I was held for 3 hours in la Presidenta park, in plain sight, while they threaten me and tried to empty my digital accounts. I felt completely helpless and powerless, and all I could think was wondering how it must have been for my parents to grow in a county full of guerillas, where kidnapping was a daily risk. It could have been days not hours, luckily I have lots of local support and my friends and family starting looking for me all over Poblado. The police didn't do anything even though there were cameras in the park (peace treaty with the new government?)

This happened at 3PM on a Saturday afternoon, and they weren't precisely hot girls at a bar, just gangsters. It could happen to anyone.

My take: as more people suffer from hunger caused by inflation and bad government, insecurity increases. If you come here, be sure to have local support, share your WhatsApp location in real time with your friends from the hostel or hotel, ignore strangers in the streets, and avoid lonely areas even during the day.

Deng Li

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

Since socialist guerrilla leader Gustavo Petro was elected president crime has exploded. Rape, kidnapping and armed robbery are rampant. Colombia is now the most dangerous country in the Americas. Wealthy Colombians are moving abroad in record numbers.

Diego Leal Martinez

Tuesday 27th of June 2023

I believe that people who go through these circumstances "bad times" travel to Colombia with the thought of looking for drugs or non-legal substances, also activities such as prostitution; So news like this has a background since foreign visitors, mostly from the United States, come to Colombia thinking of promoting drug addiction and taking advantage of the lack of economic resources that we have to support prostitution in our country; so let's be coherent, they want nothing to happen to them but they help these types of situations arise and gain strength, which is why in my humble opinion these types of cases should be controlled by the immigration authorities and the media should also publicize this type of act by people who want to come to Colombia.

Diego Leal Martinez

Sunday 2nd of July 2023

@PharLapcia, not at all, I can show you the quality of the people in the videos and the vast majority are foreigners. Just go through Cartagena and you'll see, or doing Uber are picked up, most they ask about Colombian women and their places to visit are Cartagena, Medellín and downtown Bogotá; Now you know why the vast majority come to Colombia. not all but many do for these reasons.

Diego Leal Martinez

Sunday 2nd of July 2023

@PharLapcia, not at all, I can show you the quality of people in videos and the vast majority are foreigners. just stop by Cartagena and you will see or even doing Uber to foreigners you know why the vast majority come to Colombia.


Wednesday 28th of June 2023

@Diego Leal Martinez, I think the greatest consumers of both 'services' you mention, in Colombia, are Colombians themselves.

Latitude Adjustment

Monday 26th of June 2023

We are expats who travel a lot living in Colombia for over 5 years. We feel much safer here than our home country of the US.